Our colleague and friend Rolando Cabello passed away on January 30 after battling cancer for a year. Rolando was dedicated to CIP’s mission of improving life for poor farmers and he approached its challenges with discipline and passion. In recent years, he was part of a team that identified potato lines with tolerance to environmental stress such as drought. He contributed to the development of potato varieties that have improved the food security and livelihoods of countless smallholders in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Rolando Cabello (left) during a trip in China
In the 1990s, Rolando led the Chacasina project, named for a resilient potato hybrid that he developed and helped to introduce into the drought-stricken Callejón de Conchucos valley in Peru’s Ancash region. For Rolando and colleagues, the project entailed long, wet days in the field in remote areas at a time when the Shining Path guerrilla still terrorized the region, but it resulted in local farmers increasing their potato production eightfold over the course of five years. According to Rosario Falcón, who worked with him on Chacasina, he once told her: “We should have clear consciences, because we have truly worked for the poor.” Rolando was no stranger to the poverty that plagues the rural communities of the Andes. He grew up in the highland village of Yauya in Ancash, Peru, the son of a farmer. His father sent him to a Catholic boarding school in Piscobamba, where he got good enough grades to be accepted to Peru’s Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, near Lima. He began collaborating with CIP while completing his Masters degree in agronomy there and was hired upon graduating in 1979. He worked his way up from assistant agronomist to associate researcher.
In the greenhouse
Rolando dedicated his life to research, fieldwork and his family, and he ensured that his three daughters were well educated and motivated to pursue meaningful careers. He is survived by his wife, Edith, and his daughters Stefanie, a medical doctor; Sheila, an environmental engineer; and Joyce, a business administrator. Rolando continued to work even after enduring invasive cancer surgery, and when he became too ill to make it into the office, he coordinated with his colleagues via email. His tireless dedication is illustrated by the fact that he was the lead author of a paper titled Heritability of Yield Components Under Irrigated and Drought Conditions in Andigenum Potatoes published by the Potato Association of America last month – one of many scientific publications he contributed to in his career.
Rolando, you will be greatly missed.